March of Dimes celebrates 75 years
by Sherrie Norris
Great strides have continued through the years toward enhancing prenatal and post delivery care and quality of life for both the baby and its mother.
Celebrating 75 years in 2013, March of Dimes announces that it has raised more than $1 billion to help give babies a fighting chance. The High Country has contributed significantly to that amount through the years, from individuals going door-to-door to the annual March for Babies.
This year's local fundraising event -- a 5K (3.1 miles) offering refreshments, entertainment and many other surprises -- will be held on Sat., Nov. 2 at Kidd Brewer Stadium on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone.
Chairing this year's Walk for Babies are David Burleson, Superintendent of Avery County Schools, David Jackson; Associate Athletics Director for Public Affairs Appalachian State Athletics, and Kelley Wilson of Go Team Lucas.
The trio will be joined by Jake Wallace, the 2013 March for Babies ambassador, and hundreds of volunteer walkers.
"March for Babies is the nation's premier walking event that takes place in more than 750 communities across the country, with more than 7 million people participating," said Jackson during the event's recent kickoff. Last year, March for Babies raised over $107 million across the country and $27,874 in the High Country."
Despite the advances, Jackson said, there's still a lot of work to do, noting that premature birth has the third highest rate of annual occurrence. "Over one-half million babies are born prematurely each year in the United States," he said.
This year's fundraising goal for the High Country is $40,000.
March of Dimes is a national nonprofit health organization and one of the most recognizable national health charity among mothers.
Its mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality; 77 percent of the money raised goes directly to the mission through grants and educational materials.
North Carolina Numbers
According to data provided by March of Dime, in North Carolina, more than 850 babies die before their first birthday each year, despite the fact that the infant mortality rate declined to 12 percent in 2011.
- Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death in NC, with 16,000 babies born too soon. Premature birth accounts for more than one-third of all infant deaths.
- Preterm birth rates were highest for African-American and Native Americans infants.
- Many premature babies suffer lifelong consequences such as mental retardation, blindness, learning disabilities and cerebral palsy.
- The average medical cost of one premature baby is conservatively estimated at $50,000. The total annual cost of premature babies nationwide is more than $26 billion. The emotional costs for families are immeasurable.
- Of all infant deaths in NC, African-American infants make up more than 40 percent of incidences.
- Half the cases of premature birth happen for unknown reasons -- even when the mother has no risk factors and is receiving prenatal care.
- Premature birth can happen to any woman no matter how well she takes care of herself before and during her pregnancy.
Improving health of women and babies in NC
According to the March of Dimes, research, advocacy, community service, education, volunteers and staff, NICU Family Support Project and preconception health are among the ways that the organization is impacting the health of women and their babies.
- With $73 million in active research grants nationally in 2010, The March of Dimes funded more than $3.2 million in research at NC at Duke University, UNC- Chapel Hill, and UNC-Charlotte.
- In 2012, the NC Chapter of March of Dimes awarded more than $250,000 to support statewide projects working to reduce infant mortality.
- The website marchofdimes.com provides information about preconception, pregnancy, health, nutrition, infant health, and much more. The Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center supplies information on pregnancy planning, symptoms of preterm labor, labor and delivery, newborn screening, etc. PeriStats provides data on maternal and child health in all NC counties and in the nation. Spanish information is also available online at nacersano.org. The March of Dimes publishes public educational materials including brochures and DVDs on a variety of topics and easy-to-read formats. For professionals, nursing modules on perinatal health topics, in print and online, offer continuing education credits. The chapter also supports health care professional grand rounds and conferences.
- The NC Chapter has more than 250 Program Services volunteers who give their time and expertise to the state's efforts.
- The NC Chapter launched its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Family Support Project at UNC Healthcare's Children's Hospital in 2007. The project provides information, support and comfort to families during their hospitalization in the NICU, the transition home and in the event of a newborn's death. The project also contributes to NICU staff professional development and promotes a family-centered approach that results in enhanced standards of care for infants and families.
- The March of Dimes NC Preconception Health Campaign provides preconception health education, tools and messages to the general public, health care providers and public health professionals. The Campaign provides trainings and programs about folic acid, reproductive life planning, healthy weight, tobacco cessation, and the importance of early prenatal care and medical homes. More than 931,000 women across NC were reached in 2011 through the Preconception Health Campaign programs that promote women's wellness.
Source: March of Dimes North Carolina
On May 4, 1991, nearly two months before Jacob Christopher Wallace was expected, his mother, Leigh Cooper Wallace, went into labor while at a gas station.
"My mom had been feeling bad all day, but didn't think that particular day was going to be 'the day," -- seven weeks before my due date," Jake Wallace said. "Sure enough, three hours later, I was born, a fairly healthy 4 pound, 4 ounce baby boy."
He said his parents missed the pleasure of taking him home "right away."
Rather, he was hospitalized for 15 days with jaundice, "having to wear tiny little sunglasses while being kept in an incubator under a heat lamp," he said. "I was fed through a tube, because I wasn't strong enough to breast feed, yet."
His hospital bill was nearly $20,000.
"After a great deal of stress, worry and financial hardship on my family --and prayer -- here I am, 22 years and 215 pounds later, to tell you my story," he said.
Wallace credits the improvement in medical research that he was able to grow strong and healthy, as if he had been born when expected.
"I also know the other end of this story," he said.
On June 26 of this year; his daughter was born "and given no chance to live," he said.
Wallace is grateful, he said, that he and his family were given assistance through the March of Dimes, through its research, and through doctors who knew what it took to allow him to "live healthy."
"Ever since my daughter didn't make it, I have had countless people come up to me and share their condolences and many of them have a similar story," he said. "They had personally known someone who has experienced the Cinderella story of making it and growing strong, but a few, also, with stories that had a very sad ending."
Of all the stories, Wallace said, there were far more of those preemies that fought -- and survived -- despite their early arrival.
"But it is because of the effort of those who work hard every year to raise money and who walk for the babies, that any of the success stories are possible," he said. "Thank you for your willingness to do your part to ensure that every baby has a healthy start."